AAR: Citizens Defense Research (Melody Lauer), “Contextual Handgun: The Armed Parent/Guardian”, Culpeper, VA, April 27-28, 2019

This past weekend, I made the trek down to Culpeper, VA to attend “Contextual Handgun: The Armed Parent/Guardian,” offered by Citizens Defense Research, and hosted by John Murphy of FPF Training. This class had been on my radar for quite some time, so when I saw that it was offered within driving distance, I made it a priority to attend. This decision was predicated on several factors. Primarily, I now have two young children at home, and I’ve had to navigate the murky waters of being a dad while carrying a gun. On the surface, that’s not all that complicated… but dive into the subject and there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. Fortunately, a lot of very experienced people have put a lot of effort into answering those questions. The evolving result is “The Armed Parent/Guardian” curriculum.

A secondary reason that I chose to attend this class was something that Robert at least has already hinted at. Both of us have gotten advice from people we trust that we need to attend different types of classes. Essentially, we’ve been told that we know how to shoot and need to diversify our training. (I still have a lot of work to do as far as shooting is concerned, but the gains are increasingly incremental.) We tend to identify this as “thinking with a gun in hand.” We’ve already done some of that, but need to do more. I would certainly qualify parts of TAP/G class as “thinking with a gun in hand.” Indeed, for many of us, when our children are involved, the stakes and potential distractions could not be higher.

A common refrain echoed by more than one of my classmates was, “I wasn’t sure what to expect.” I had somewhat of an idea, and I’m happy to report that my expectations were met and surpassed. I’m just going to put this out there… if you carry a gun, and if you have kids, or are around kids often, or simply want to be prepared to defend those non-combatants that you love, then you need to get to this class. Indeed, almost anyone that carries a gun could benefit from attending this class. The curriculum delves into a lot of areas that are not commonly addressed in typical training classes and fills a definite niche in the training industry that is probably relevant to just about everybody.

The class is actually comprised of three separate blocks of instruction that can be taken individually or all together to complete the course. If your spouse or partner is not a shooter, they could certainly benefit from the lecture portion only. If you can’t spare a full weekend, you could conceivably complete the course on two separate occasions.

As I mentioned above, the class was hosted by John Murphy of FPF Training. Those of you in northern Virginia have a wonderful resource available in Murphy and his range. Train with him and support his good efforts! I was expecting to see both John Johnston (Ballistic Radio) and Melody Lauer as our instructors, as they typically teach this class as a team. However, for this class Melody Lauer was the sole instructor. Any initial misgivings I had about this quickly vanished once the class got underway. Melody explained early on that they had always prepped to teach the class individually if the other wasn’t available, and this particular class was one such example. (Johnston was at NRAAM in Indy.) I shouldn’t have been concerned, as Melody is a fantastic instructor in her own right. Had I not known that that they typically teach together, I would have had no idea that Melody doesn’t always teach it solo. I should mention at this point that I have no affiliation with either Citizens Defense Research or FPF Training other than being a full price paying student.

There were six students in class, all men. All but one had children or grandchildren that they were responsible for. All except one of us had prior training. The exception was a student that traveled all the way from Colorado to attend! This was his first real formal class, with his only prior training being the permit class and a little extra coursework related to that. Considering the importance of the material covered in class, six students was a bit of a disappointing turnout in my opinion. However, we all benefited from the small class size, as it fostered a close knit training class where we all knew each other’s names by lunchtime. Given the choice of a large class or small class, I’ll always pick the latter.

Day one began in the classroom with waivers, introductions, and a four hour interactive lecture block dealing with how the presence of children or other non-combatants affects violent encounters, how to manage unknown contacts when your children are present, and establishing the goals of the class. In addition, legal, moral, and ethical issues were discussed in depth, along with a brief discussion on gear. The lecture was broken up into sections, allowing for adequate breaks. The lecture also featured several videos of actual events to prompt teaching points and observation of real world Violent Criminal Actors (VCA). Readers familiar with Craig Douglas, William Aprill, and Shivworks will recognize the terminology used. Several relevant statistics were shared, and Melody made the point throughout the entire weekend that the name of their company, Citizens Defense Research, was not happenstance. The curriculum is based on extensive testing and evaluation of data. Anyone with children should sit through this lecture, even if they have absolutely no interest in carrying a gun. One other thing that I took away from the lecture was the wisdom (again) of carrying pepper spray. I try, but I confess that I often don’t. I need bigger pockets, or perhaps some sort of belt mounted option.

Melody Lauer

After a lunch break, we moved onto the shooting portion of the class, technically the second block of instruction. We reconvened in the classroom to go over the CDR explanation of the gun safety rules, as well as a medical plan and class rules. In addition to the four universal safety rules, Melody added a fifth. Specifically, prevent unauthorized access to your firearms when they are not under your direct control. Even if it’s just a toolbox with a padlock, lock up your guns. There were also two hard rules that violation of would result in being asked to leave. First, don’t muzzle anybody and second, no unauthorized gun handling. As long as students were able to abide by those rules, they were welcome in class, regardless of ability.

As I am now accustomed to, I was voluntarily designated the primary medical responder. I’m actually considering putting together a medical kit that goes beyond a simple blow out kit that is more in line with my level of training, especially since the medical evacuation plan in many rural training areas is to load and go in a privately owned vehicle. Think IFAK + booboo kit + perhaps some IV supplies, and simple medications, along with some basic diagnostic equipment (stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, etc.). This would allow treatment that goes beyond somebody getting shot, and allow me to better assess and treat on the way to a receiving facility, along with giving said receiving facility a better report at patient hand-off. The legalities of invasive procedures gets a bit murky here, so right now, I’m still just dwelling on it.

Once on the range, Melody began by discussing a unique ready position that has some definite attributes. Beyond that particular ready position, she made the point that no one typical ready position is going to be universally ideal, so we instead adopted an “administrative” position that facilitated the teaching points of the class. This was essentially a compressed ready with the gun held in the “work space.” Throughout the afternoon, Melody taught the draw stroke, acceptable sight picture, grip, reloads, strong hand only and weak hand only shooting, and malfunction clearance. While this was largely review for me, I did learn something new. Namely, how to pick up a pistol that has fallen on the ground. Yes, there is actually more to it than simply picking it up.

This was a very solid review of the fundamentals and while some might find it tedious, it serves a few purposes. First, this class really doesn’t have a prerequisite. Melody and John have had students show up ranging from a new gun owner that literally brought a brand new gun still in the box to a USPSA GM. They need to get everybody on the same page prior to the second day of class, and they need to make sure that everybody can safely do the drills required on the second day. As Melody pointed out, most experienced shooters simply like to shoot, so even if it is review, most everybody enjoys it. I for one always appreciate a review of the fundamentals. Especially when I can learn something new!

That night, four out of the six students in class joined Murphy and Melody at a local restaurant for a group dinner. We had an interesting discussion that was in many ways a continuation of the material presented in class. I think all of us enjoyed the camaraderie, and I really like this aspect of certain classes. I’ve commented on it in previous AARs, and I’ll echo my sentiments here. I appreciate it when an instructor and/or host strive to foster a stronger community through such invitations. Hell, we’ve all got to eat sometime and somewhere. So much the better to break bread with like-minded folks.

To start off the second day, Melody reiterated the safety rules, medical plan, and class rules. She then led us into a discussion on targeting and anatomy. This was unique in the fact that she brought a prop that I have only ever previously encountered in a classroom. “Reuben” is a pull-apart and cut-away life-sized model of the human torso and head that was used to illustrate the salient points of shooting to stop a threat. The fact that Melody is also an active EMT in her community lent credence to her teaching points. Due to my career choice, I’ve had the opportunity to attend cadaver labs and see what types of trauma really disrupt human functioning, but most students without a medical background probably have not. I have no doubt that this prop illustrated the realities of shooting to stop a threat far better than a simple discussion or some pictures drawn on a target.

img_3215

We then moved back out onto the range, starting with a warm-up for shooting the FBI Qualification. When we shot it a few minutes later, I scored a 93%. That’s instructor level, but I was still pissed at dropping a shot and going over time for three shots.

img_3216

The second day of shooting was fast paced, and involved skills and drills specifically tailored to just about every age range from infant to adult non-combatant, whether that involved holding on to them or moving them out of the way. I’m intentionally being somewhat vague here… take the class! This wasn’t high-speed or flashy stuff, just robust techniques for dealing with threats with a gun in hand while also being responsible for the care and well-being of a dependent. This was largely new material for me, and it’s good stuff that I’ll be practicing with my kids and spouse. Of course, movement and hostage rescue shots were also discussed.

Students had been instructed to bring a preschool sized backpack that could be weighted for some of the drills. The goal isn’t a heavy weight that will wear students out over the course of a day of training, but rather a deliberate weight that will be manageable. The suggestion was roughly 10-15 bulky pounds. For my part, I wrapped some soft SCUBA weights in clothes in a youth pack. In addition, Melody had brought a sturdily constructed dummy that was roughly equivalent to a 20-25 pound two to three year old child. She used “Johnny” for demonstrations and any of the students were welcome to use Johnny as well during the drills. I should mention here that like any good shooting instructor, Melody demonstrated everything that she expected us to do before we shot.

The final shooting that we did was the TAP/G Qualification. Incorporating many of the skills that we had learned and practiced over the weekend, I can say that a lot of thought went into the qualification. I managed a 95%, but still dropped a few shots and went over time on one string of fire. After policing the range, Melody gathered us around her vehicle for a discussion on parking lots and car seats. To end the class, we gathered in a spot of shade on the range to debrief. Melody asked for honest feedback from each student, and also constructively critiqued every student.

This was a really good class that I’m glad I attended, despite the long drive and time away from my family. The material covered is unique and invaluable for almost anyone that carries a gun, and the lecture is especially important for anyone that is a parent or grandparent, irrespective of whether they choose to carry a gun. I would definitely consider repeating this class in the future, and would absolutely sign up for an advanced version if it becomes available. If you find it scheduled near you, I highly recommend it!

Over the weekend, we were blessed with good weather. The mornings started out chilly and then the days warmed up and the sun came out. We couldn’t ask for better. Among the six of us, there were three S&W M&Ps, two Glocks, and one revolver! The gentleman shooting next to me on the line was running a S&W Model 66 with a great amount of skill and a lot of speed loaders. He was quite accurate with the gun and his reloads were obviously practiced. The only area where I saw his choice slow him down was the reloads. Specifically, in the qualifications we shot, the revolver reload simply took too long. Nonetheless, it was impressive to watch! According to Melody, he was the first student to  actually complete this course with a revolver. And Curtis, thank you again for dinner! Next time’s on me.


I promised an update on my new S&W M&P9 2.0 Compact… I definitely shoot it better than I do my Glock. I have now fired a total of 1018 rounds with 406 fired during class. I did experience one malfunction in class that I’m going to attribute to operator error as opposed to a mechanical malfunction. On one three shot string, I got a click instead of a bang on the second shot. Many times during the course, I inserted a fully loaded magazine against a closed slide. I’m convinced that on the reload prior to that string of fire, I simply didn’t insert the magazine forcefully enough. Of course, it was on a drill where I was shooting one handed, so I had to tap the magazine on my thigh and rack the slide against my belt before firing the remaining rounds. This episode simply reinforced my observation that attempting a tactical or speed reload with a full 10 round magazine might not be the best idea. I’m going to continue my practice of downloading my spare magazine by one just in case I ever do have to do a speed or tactical reload for real. The other advantage to this practice is that when I unload my gun for dry fire or to switch to training ammunition, I have a place to put the round that was in the chamber.


As always, thanks for reading. I was gratified to meet a couple of blog readers in class, and I hope to meet more of you at future training events. If you’re not already, please do follow us either by e-mail or on social media. We welcome questions, comments, and civil discourse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s